TADHack JHB winning app rewards locals for exploring SA

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An app using gamification and user rewards to revive local tourism has won this past weekend’s TADHack Johannesburg 2020. TADHack (Telecom Application Developer Hackathon) encourages the use of telecoms to solve social problems.

The hackathon normally runs simultaneously in cities across the world and online. This year's hack scaled back physical events in favour of remote participation.

MTN has partnered with TADHack for the fourth year running in SA. This year’s theme was to solve local COVID-19 related issues using fintech solutions such as MTN MoMo.

The team behind the winning Xplorer solution called Android3, is made up of three female developers who entered their first hackathon together last year and have been working together since (they’ve also founded AgriCode ). This was their first TADHack.

The team’s Xplorer app uses gamification and rewards to encourage local tourism while educating South Africans about the country's famous destinations. The team won a $1 000 cash prize and a R10 000 Incredible Connection voucher.

Carol Khoza said she and her teammates, sisters Naomi and Christine Bisimwa, chose the idea to encourage local sightseeing again after the hard lockdown. The team used some of the country’s most popular destinations as a basis for the prototype.

“If a player visits Gold Reef City for example, they’d scan a QR code to earn points that can be redeemed for discounts and vouchers on the MoMo app,” said Khoza. The more sites they visit, the more points they can earn. The app will also use its chatbot and geo-location to suggest other places users can visit.

Khoza, an IT graduate and Eugene Msipa were offered pre-placement interviews with Tata Consulting Services. Event host Gabriel Cassim explained that this does not guarantee jobs for the two but, ‘we’ve given you lead, it’s up to you what you do with it’.

Second place (R10 000) went to Kleek, an ecommerce platform allowing businesses to meet increased labour needs by automatically recruiting suitably-skilled individuals and paying them from the MoMo app. Edutech solution iThute came third, winning R5 000. iThute offers schools, learners and parents a three-way platform to manage admin, exams, timetables and extra-curricular activities.

Hard work won’t go unnoticed

Giovanni Chiarelli, MTN SA’s CTIO, said: “This has been a special edition of the hackathon, and I think we’ve all learnt something new. Over the past few days, as you’ve been tackling real-world problems, I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm, passion and great technical skills; our future is bright.”

One of the sponsor-led categories was the ayoba challenge; ayoba is MTN’s instant messaging service. Teams were challenged to create unique games for the South African market. Winners in this category were:

1st: Android3, winning R15 000. The app will also be made available on Ayoba

2nd: Code Artisans won R10 000 for Flipp-a-meme; a tile-flipping memory game

3rd: Team Enmorphe won R5 000 for its Space Impact-type game. Players fly a helicopter shooting at airborne coronavirus particles.

Other prizes included:

The Technology Inclusion for Society prize, sponsored by Tata Consulting Services, was awarded to the 3Musketeers team who aim to improve access to mobile money markets through MTN MoMo. Here, users will be able to deposit money into their accounts by buying airtime.

Purpose Driven Conversational Experience: Android3 for its interactive tourism game

Leveraging the ecosystem: ZeroBug allows anyone to share their cellphone connection via SMS. One user requests the other’s permission to gain network access. The process can also be conducted via USSD.

Disruptive Innovation for the Future: Nimble, an app connecting suppliers and consumers, facilitating payments. Talhah Patelia of team Nimble is a 15-year-old self-taught developer. He won the Rising Star award at last year's TADHack for his autonomous scouting robot.

Patelia was also awarded a year-long internship with identity software firm Contactable. Teammates Tumelo Baloyi and Yolanda Mabusela were offered internships, too. Baloyi was part of last year’s winning team, developing a cellphone tower protection app.

Rising Star: 15-year-old Kutlwano Tshatiwa from the North West, a nominee in this year’s Geekulcha Top 15 Young Geeks who taught himself to code on his phone using PDFs.

Best Female Hacker: Yolanda Mabusela. She said: “Winning this award shows me that hard work does pay off; I hope this inspires other young ladies coming up in tech to preserve and to keep hacking, their efforts won’t go unnoticed.” She plans on using some of the money she won from the event to buy equipment for her Social Geeks podcast where she speaks to industry leaders and young techies on industry matters.

Ultimate Geekstar: Tumelo Baloyi considers himself a professional ‘hackathoner’ and has won numerous hackathons since he started entering in 2013, including ITWeb’s Security Summit #SS19Hack with Thuso, an app that helps survivors communicate after a natural disaster, such as a flood.

The top 12’s presentations can be found on TADHack SA’s YouTube channel.

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